Game development is challenging with all the coding and graphic design involved. Samantha John founded Hopscotch, a programming language so simple that even kids can learn it. With her app, children can create their own digital games and sell them to other users. Samantha pitched her business on Shark Tank and got a deal with Mark Cuban. As of 2024, Hopscotch is worth $5 million.
Samantha John’s Background
Samantha John was raised in Brooklyn, New York and has a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Columbia University. Her interest in programming started during her senior year of college. At the time, she was working on creating a student club website.
After graduating, Samantha became an entrepreneur in residence at YouWeb Incubator. In 2011, she was hired as a junior programmer at Pivotal Labs and was promoted to team leader in less than a year. John co-founded the company with Jocelyn Leavitt, a former teacher and entrepreneur from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Samantha and Jocelyn got into coding after noticing a lack of diversity in the field. Together, they developed a programming language for kids aged 10 to 16.
Instead of complicated lines of code, they employed visual programming. Plus, it was the first programming language compatible with mobile touchscreen devices. They launched Hopscotch for free in 2012 and initially focused on attracting users over driving revenue.
The startup raised $1.2 million in funding from five venture capital firms in 2013. The business was able to attract users but struggled to make money. They switched to a subscription-based model which cut their active user base in half.
Shark Tank Appearance
Samantha John appeared on season 12 of Shark Tank, seeking $400,000 for a 4% equity stake. Although Hopscotch had 6,000 paying users, Samantha wasn’t happy with the current business model.
Samantha gave a strong presentation and confidently answered questions from the Sharks. Hopscotch was at a crossroad and Samantha’s shared the number of active users was in decline but they were still profitable.
The Sharks admired the founders passion and drive but were worried about the decline in customers. Mark Cuban was already a customer of the products and loved it! Cuban had an intense negotiation but agreed to invest $550,000 for 11%.
After Shark Tank
After the episode aired, Hopscotch’s website traffic exploded and they had a 500% increase in downloads on Apple’s App Store. Samantha and Hopscotch also featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Wired.
Currently, Hopscotch has over 200,000 active users and kids have created 36 million games on the platform. The company has released a merch store, selling everything from t-shirts, notebooks, stickers, bags and phone cases.
On the App Store, the coding app for kids has a 4.5-star rating from more than 13,700 reviews. The company is slowly turning things around and makes an estimated $2 million in annual revenue. The hype has faded since Shark Tank but the business is still profitable and remains one of the most popular coding apps for kids.